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Knickerbocker Holiday

In 17th-century Manhattan, the roguish Dutch council eagerly awaits the arrival of their new autocratic governor, Pieter 'Peg-Leg' Stuyvesant. Hoping to make a good impression, and in the awkward impression of having no one to hang on hanging day, they arbitrarily select an independent-minded young man for the unfortunate fate and we're off and running with a satirical fable pitting totalitarianism against democracy.

This first musical to use historical perspective to comment upon contemporary political matters leaves virtually no aspect of government unscathed, with some hilarious and knowing results. Washington Irving, himself stepping in and out of the narrative as the plot unfolds, manages an eleventh hour turn of events for an upbeat conclusion to the delight of all concerned.

  • Full Length Musical
  • Comedy

  • Time Period: 19th Century, 17th Century
  • Target Audience: Teen (Age 14 - 18), Appropriate for all audiences, Adult
  • Set Requirements: Unit Set/Multiple Settings

  • Performance Group:
  • Community Theatre, High School/Secondary, Professional Theatre, College Theatre / Student, Church / Religious Groups
In 1809, Washington Irving hopes to create an enduring work that will augur a new American literature. He decides to write a history of the original Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam ("Washington Irving Song")

As Irving looks on, the scene shifts to Manhattan, 1647. Dutch maidens swab the pier ("Clickety-Clack"), and the town council ("Entrance of the Council"), headed by Tienhoven, sights the ship carrying their new Governor, Peter Stuyvesant. To honor him and prove they are diligent public servants -- though they admit to under-the-table dealings ("Hush, Hush") -- the council members decide to hang a convict. But there are no prisoners; they have all escaped.

Now Irving decides on a commoner, Brom Broeck, as his hero. Brom hopes to marry Tina, Tienhoven's daughter, but wants to be more respectable first ("There's Nowhere to Go But Up!"). He admits that he is incapable of taking order, which means he can't tolerate bosses or officials. He and Tina still love each other anyway ("It Never Was You"). The council enters, still seeking a victim. Brom accuses Tienhoven of selling brandy and firearms to the Indians -- a hanging offence. Irving intervenes and tells Brom to disregard the facts so that he won't have to report such disagreeable charges to his latter-day readers. But he and Brom agree that an inability to take orders combined with a hatred of corruption add up to a working definition of an American ("How Can You Tell an American?").

The council votes to hang Brom. Tina protests as they tie him up ("Will You Remember Me?"). Brom tricks the council into putting the noose around his belly, not his neck. They hoist him just as Stuyvesant makes his entrance. Impressed by Brom's ingenuity, Stuyvesant pardons him. The governor promises democratic reform, which proves indistinguishable from tyranny ("One Touch of Alchemy"), but the crowd cheers. Stuyvesant confronts Tienhoven with his crimes, but notes that he will be useful when the government takes over the sale of contraband to the Indians ("The One Indispensable Man"). Then Tienhoven announces that Tina will marry Stuyvesant. Tina objects furiously to the arranged marriage ("Young People Think About Love") and pleads for time. But Stuyvesant wants to marry the next day, since he is getting old and doesn't have the luxury of waiting ("September Song"), and he persuades her. Stuyvesant detects Brom's resistance and throws him in jail, ordering the crowd to sing and rejoice ("All hail the Political Honeymoon").

Observing Brom in his jail cell, Washington Irving notes the irony that the real crooks are all on the outside ("Ballad of the Robbers"). Tina comes to return to Brom's ring. Then Stuyvesant enters and tells Brom that he ought to write a jailhouse book, ;ole Bunyan and Cervantes ("Sitting in Jail"). When Stuyvesant leaves, Tina tries to sneak into the cell past the jailer, but as Brom and the jailer engage in a tug of war over her, her skirts are ripped off. They resolves to escape together, but the jailer foils them. Tienhoven reminds Tina she must wed Stuyvesant; if she resists, Brom will be hanged. Tina and Brom lament their fate ("We Are Cut in Twain").

Irving sets the next scene ("There's Nowhere to Go But Up!" reprise), and the newly mustered army marches in ("To War"). Stuyvesant orders the council to reorganize the colony's economy; for the first time the council members object to his tyrannical plans, but only after he exits ("Our Ancient Liberties"). The betrothal ceremony proceeds ("May and January") as Stuyvesant makes Tina recite a list of rules for wives. He is not alarmed that Tina was seen without her skirt in Brom's cell the previous night ("The Scars").

Suddenly shots ring out: Brom and his friend Tenpin enter, fleeing the Indians who have burned down the jail ("The Algonquins from Harlem" dance). The council members retreat, but Stuyvesant and Brom stand and fight. Tenpin is felled by arrows ("Dirge for a Soldier"); Brom rescues Stuyvesant and together they drive away the Indians. Then Brom tells the crowd he witnessed Stuyvesant selling the Indians firearms. Tenpin recovers and corroborates Brom's charge. An enraged Stuyvesant swears he will hang Brom, who tells the crowd that they were better off with the inefficient corruption of the council than with Stuyvesant's efficient corruption. The council mutinies and refuses to proceed with the hanging ("No We Vouldn't Gonto Do It").

Stuyvesant is preparing to gun down the mutineers when Washington Irving intervenes. He advises Stuyvesant not to fire so he will not seem a ruthless tyrant to posterity. Stuyvesant has a change of heart; he pardons Brom and allows him to marry Tina. Then he allows that he may be an American, too, since he was never able to take orders, either ("How Can You Tell an American?" reprise).

REVIEWS:

"Weill's work is vibrantly refreshing, an intriguing mix of his familiar Berlin style with his first explorations of the American musical. A pleasure to hear the score in all its musical splendor."

Variety

"Spirited, tuneful and pungent political satire, so skillfully embellished with pithy lines and lyrics and so handsomely melodized with a variegated musical score as to create the illusion of a completely new form in the theater . . . . An evening of sheer delight."

Washington Post

"The astonishing thing about it is how topical it remains. Anderson's political kick gives Knickerbocker Holiday some topical tang; its enduring strength lies in Weill’s music."

Toronto Star

"A beautiful score . . . and an air of refreshing fun-poking that most playgoers will associate with Gilbert and Sullivan . . . . A novel piece of quality craftsmanship . . . . One of the smoothest ribs of modern politics yet staged."

Variety

"The Weill music, rolling out like a colorful carpet, makes the evening."

New York Times

"A fascinating mixture of operetta choruses, peppy vaudeville turns, gorgeous Broadway ballads, and Germanic-flavored strains, all orchestrated brilliantly by the composer himself.... Persuasive evidence that Weill was and remains one of Broadway's most original, skilled, and artistically ambitious composers."

Backstage

"Splendid choral writing and rich orchestrations . . . . Knickerbocker Holiday has one of the greatest songs in American musical theater history. Let's amend that and say one of the greatest songs ever written . . . 'September Song.'"

Huffington Post

"The breezy score for Knickerbocker Holiday effervesces like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta."

New York Times

"The satire, the irony, the sparkle and bite of [Anderson's] text contain an authority worthy of W.S. Gilbert. Admirably wedded to this libretto is Kurt Weill's graceful and original music, melodious and full of light-hearted zest."

Boston Globe

"The beauty of 'September Song' and the quiet, warming way in which Mr. Huston tinkles out its wise and winning words are among the most delightful moments the Theater of all time has ever delivered. No entertainment in a blue theatrical moon has had such tantalizing tunes, for Mr. Weill's music is gay, stimulating and alive . . . [an] unforgettable score."

Pittsburgh Post Gazette,

"Sophistication, wit and also heart . . . a beautiful score."

New York Times

"Handsome and tuneful and eloquent. In 'September Song' and 'To Our Ancient Liberties,' Kurt Weill has written a couple of the best songs of the year."

New Yorker
Premiere Production: In 1938, Kinickerbocker Holiday opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The show later moved to the 46th Street Theatre, and ran for a total of 168 performances.
  • Casting: 12M, 2F
  • Casting Attributes: Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)
  • Chorus Size: Large

  • PIETER STUYVESANT
    BROM BROECK
    TINA TINEHOVEN
    WASHINGTON IRVING
    TIENHOVEN
    MISTRESS SCHERMERHORN
    DePEYSTER
    GENERAL POFFENBURGH
    VAN CORTLANDT, JR.
    SCHERMERHORN
    TENPIN
    VAN RENSSELAER
    VANDERBILT
    ROOSEVELT
    DeVRIES
  • Name Price
    Perusal Material Shipped immediately. This is optional.

    1 x Libretto
    1 x Vocal Book
    1 x Piano Vocal Score

    $24.00
    Rehearsal Material Shipped a minimum of 3 months before the last performance. This must be hired as a condition of the License to produce this show.

    20 x Libretto
    20 x Vocal Books
    2 x Piano Vocal Scores

    $550.00 +$135.00/pm
    Orchestral Material Shipped a minimum of 3 months before the last performance. This is optional.

    1 x Piano Vocal Score
    1 x Piano
    1 x Reed I (Flute, Piccolo)
    1 x Reed II (Oboe, Clarinet, Alto Sax)
    1 x Reed III (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Alto Sax)
    1 x Reed IV (Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax)
    1 x Trumpet I
    1 x Trumpet II
    1 x Trombone I
    1 x Trombone II
    1 x Percussion (Trap Set, Timpani, Vibraphone, Triangle, Gong, Bells, Tom Toms, Castanets, Military Drum, Tambourine)
    1 x Violin I (Divisi)
    1 x Violin II (Divisi)
    1 x Viola
    1 x Cello
    1 x Bass
    1 x Guitar (Doubles Banjo)

    $350.00 +$135.00/pm